I always feel a great sense of reward when I manage to navigate public transport in foreign countries. …or perhaps I’m confusing reward with relief! Travelling solo is extremely liberating but I know my anxiety is much reduced when I have a fellow traveller (or any random English speaking person) with whom to confirm conclusions. Despite all of this I’ve always managed to arrive at the intended destination at the planned time.
This time it was Vladimir – which after being corrected a couple of hundred times I now know to pronounce as Vlad-i-meerr!
I’d arrived here to experience the Russian orthodox towns on the famed Golden Ring. After finding my accommodation I was back on public transport – this time the bus on my way to Suzdal about an hour from Vladimir. After a bit of prompting with hand gestures from my fellow bus buddies I managed to avoid the 2km walk into town by staying on the bus a little longer. It seemed the further you got from the major cities the less English was spoken, even by the young, but the people were as friendly as others.
Suzdal had been bypassed by the Trans-Siberian rail line in 1894 and in doing so time had stood still. It was full of cute little wooden houses, some colourful and some with interesting carvings. It was also full of wonderful old historical buildings.
My first stop was the Savior Monastery of St Euthymius. It had been established in the 14th century as more of a protectorate of the town’s north from invaders. It included an interesting prison that had held religious dissidents. The monastery had also been used by the bolsheviks as a concentration camp after the tzars had been unseated in the 1917 revolution and it had then been used to keep German and Italian officers during WWII. The exhibition halls were full of ornaments – religious and agricultural – unfortunately no English translations.
The trading arcades are still being used for that purpose although the fruits and veggies have been replaced with souvenir stalls!
The Suzdal Kremlin is the grandfather of Moscow’s Kremlin having been built in the 12th century by the then ruling prince who later established Moscow as an outpost! The Kremlin housed the lovely Nativity of the Virgin Cathedral, which was adorned with lovely blue domes with gold stars and an interior rich in frescoes.
Across the picturesque river was the Museum of Wooden Architecture and Peasant Life. The buildings are from the 1700s and gave you the feeling you were in an Amish community. It was very quaint and I was feeling quite privileged to own a bed with a latex mattress!
On arriving back to Vladimir I found lots of people out enjoying the very comfortable weather so I got amongst it by trying the Russian drink kvass, which is made from rye bread. It was like a sweet porter beer (and from what I understood I had tried the non-sweet variety) – not for me I’m afraid.
My last day in Vladimir was spent visiting the very grand Assumption Cathedral, which sits on a bluff giving great views, the water tower, the Vladimir Golden Gate (part fort part triumphal arch) and the Cathedral of St Dmitry. What St Dmitry lacked in size it made up with its ornate stone carvings on the exterior walls. It had been built in late 1100 and believed to never have been matched by other Russian stone carvers.
The little side trip had been very worthwhile…although my feet and legs were screaming at me with all the walking. They’d now get a rest as I prepared to board a sleeper train for Saint Petersburg…